Thursday, 11 June 2009

Shopping for Greece via Turkey

Pining for the heat of Greece, I yomped along St Anne's Road to Green Lanes is search of hellenic goodies. I completely missed Milia Wholesale when I hopped on a bus which then swerved in the wrong direction, but I did find the wonderfully eccentric Andreas Michli, which was just opening up. Inside, the shelves are stocked with a mixture of dry goods and Greek brown pottery; outside they were unpacking plants. Nestled among the geraniums were tiny fig plants - baby trees, said the owner.
The one I bought is already studded with tiny fruit, and is now sitting in the intermittent sun in the garden.
Then I headed onto Green Lanes, one of my favourite food shopping streets. There are very few Greek shops left here: the Greeks have moved northwards and now it's dominated by Turkish businesses. I saw two Greek restaurants: both closed and gone. But one bastion of greekness remains - Baldwins Butchers, run by a cheery Greek Cypriot. It's a fab shop. As well as a fine array of meaty goodness, there are dry goods, olive oil, halva, and I spotted some mastik. I bought Greek and Italian sausages, and asked if they knew where I could track down some Mythos, my beery tipple on Skiathos. My first lead came to nothing, so I resumed shopping at one of the best stores on Green Lanes - Yasar Halim.
Yasar Halim is two big shops - a general food store with a bakery next door. It's Turkish, but as the sign over the store makes plain, there's a generous leavening of Greek food items. When I first visited, in my early days in Tottenham, it was rather dingy, but it's since had a smart refit. You can find all things Turkish here, including sheeps' heads and a huge array of Turkish and Greek cheeses. I was thrilled to find some fresh vine leaves, and looking at the jam section, I found some jars of the spoon sweets that I'd loved at Ilya's Orchard, including one of bitter orange. But as I have my quince jam I looked, slavered but did not buy.
One of my store cupboard staples is pekmez - a molasses normally made from pomegranate, grape, raisin or carob. Pekmez is a luscious sweet/sour combination, and a vital ingredient for some of my favourite aubergine dishes. I was very excited to find some mulberry pekmez, which I'd not seen before. Next door in the bakery, I picked up an olive bread and one of those Turkish snail-shell curled buns, rich with sugar and ground nuts.
Then it was on with my beer hunt: up to Turnpike Lane and turn left...Mythos was out of stock, but a Pakistani butcher along the road had boxes of Alphonso mangoes as sweet compensation.

Since returning from Greece, I've been mooching over the cookery books I have that cover the area, including Paula Wolfert and (of course) Claudia Roden. And I've discovered another book which I've loved reading.

Susanna Hoffman has lived in Greece for 30 years, and the book is a compendium of food, culture, myths and memories. Susanna's recipe for stuffed vine leaves (the veggie variety) includes dried apricots and wine-soaked raisins. The one ingredient I haven't got in stock is pine nuts - I adore them and tend to run out fast. So that's gone on the shopping list so that I can make dolmades at the weekend.


Lickedspoon said...

What a lovely post Fran - I love all of the shops you mentioned, especially Michli's. They're always so charming in there. I don't know if they still do, but they used to grow some of the produce for the shop on their own north London allotment. That book looks like a very good addition to the bookcase, and I hope you enjoyed your mangoes!

goodshoeday said...

Wow those shops look great. Just wondering the best way to get to Green Lanes from me - its one of those places thats near but not on any direct route...hmmmm research required I think.

mangocheeks said...

There are no Greek-Cypriot-Turkish shops in Scotland, so I may have to find an excuse oneday to mooch over your way or another part of diverse London.

The fig plant is a great find, they wouldn't grow up here unless quarantined to the greenhouse, and I cannot dedicate a greenhouse to one glorious and exotic fruit, but you enjoy!

Alphonso mangoes, are they already appearing at the shops, I must get some!

fran39 said...

Debora - yes, they were so charming. When I suggested taking the fig to my allotment, the reaction was horror: it will be stolen! Sadly true, so it will live at home.
goodshoeday - by bus, I guess? It's a bit of a trek for me too. I walked it this time, but normally get a bus from Seven Sisters to Turnpike Lane, then walk down Green Lanes. Or does the overland connect between Stokey and Haringey station??
Mango - a fruit after your own heart! Yes, the alphonsoes are in season now, piled up by the boxload in local asian shops.